Sat. 10th January 2015. Northern Wanderers vs Billingham II. Candy League 1 Away.
With gale force winds gusting across the pitch at Billingham and flurries of snow, both teams did well to play this fixture and survive without hypothermia! Things started badly for Northern earlier in the day with three cry offs, the last for a broken down car at Washington services. However, despite this, thanks to Tony Hedley, Dave Lockheart and Charlie Craven turning out at short notice, Northern were able to bring 17 players for the game. Northern started the game with a bang and kicked an early penalty to the corner for a 5 metre line out. The ball was secured and back row Matt Brooks peeled off from the catch and drive to power over for the opening score. Fly half Tommy Williams then converted with a super kick that defied the windy conditions and flew true between the posts. Both teams were keeping the ball in close and Northern’s defence was good against a strong Billingham pack so scoring opportunities were minimal for both teams. Billingham were reduced to 14 men when their lock was sin binned for what looked like persistent back chat. With the sin bin over on 28 minutes after a foray into the Northern 22, the Billingham fly half put a probing grubber kick through for a Northern line out 7 metres out. Northern won the line and looked to clear their lines but the ball was kicked out of the Northern player’s hand and the Billingham scrum half picked up the loose ball to score a fortunate try out wide. The conversion was missed but this seemed to gee up the Northern team and from the kick off they pressed Billingham back into their own half. Eventually the pressure told when on 38 minutes after Northern had recycled ball from a line out penalty in the Billingham 22, Tommy Williams jinked his way through the defence to score a good try under the posts which he converted himself. Half time score: Northern Wanderers 14 – Billingham 5.
The second half started with Billingham having a slight wind advantage but their fly half decided to run ball rather than kick for position. Northern were penalised at the break down on 45 minutes and Billingham kicked for the corner. From the 5 metre line out the Billingham pack scored with a catch and drive but the conversion was missed. Billingham tried to press for a further score but Northern’s defence was sound. On 55 minutes Billingham spilled the ball in contact just inside the Northern half. The ball was kicked on by Tommy Williams and with centre Alex Turnbull in support it looked like Northern would score a break-away try. Just short of the line the ball bobbled and both players and the Billingham defender overran it however, scrum half Ali Gray had following up behind picked up the loose ball to touch down out wide for the score. Tommy Williams missed the difficult conversion but Northern were ahead by two scores. Northern were reduced to 14 men on 62 minutes when no. 8 Lawrence Annis was sin-binned for a high tackle. Billingham made the extra man count on 65 minutes when they worked the ball wide for a good try in the corner. The conversion was missed meaning that Billingham needed a try to win the game. Northern defended to a man and after what seemed more than 10 minutes were back to full complement when Laurence Annis returned from the sin-bin for the last five minutes. Captain & prop Peter Allsop led by example putting in some big hits to take the sting out of the Billingham attack and following further Billingham indiscipline, Northern were given a penalty right on time which they kicked out to secure the deserved victory. Final score: Northern Wanderers 19 – Billingham 15.
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